While I'm taking a bit of a break from the season, I invite you to enjoy a little WTH Holiday mayhem as my dark half, Foster Medina, and his messed up literary diversions break out of their Friday dungeon, filling the season with the bizarre, the twisted, the grotesque, and the kinky. Enjoy!
Infernal Parade, it's important to remember that these stories were originally published and packaged (much like the Tortured Souls collection from 2015) with the McFarlane toy line. That means they were designed to serve as stand-alone stories, connected, but not necessarily forming a linear narrative.
What that means for fans is that we get an all-too-rare serving of vintage Barker, with stories written during the very early days of Abarat, long before his 2012 brush with death. In putting the collection together, however, I feel like there's a missed opportunity here - one that would have made this collection truly memorable. We're introduced to Tom Requiem and the freaks of his Infernal Parade, but we never get to see them brought together. With the opening story suggesting a Books of Blood feel to the collection, I would have loved to see a new story at the other end to tie it all together.
That's a minor quibble, however, and not a criticism of the stories themselves. These are short, but powerful stories of torture and transformation, true horror with a freakish, monstrous feel. They have an almost fable-like feel to them, being stories of human cruelties and supernatural retribution. Sometimes it's the who and what they are that makes them freaks, but the stories are at their best when it's how and why they die that casts them into the Infernal Parade, doomed (or perhaps blessed) to endlessly relive pain for pleasure.
The stories of Bethany Bled, with its fateful wish that dooms a pair of lovers, and the Golem Elijiah, with it's dark twist of an ill thought-out command, are probably closest to that fable feel, but it's the stories of Mary Slaughter and Tom Requiem himself that remind me the most of Barker's most classic tales.
Expected publication: February 28th 2017 by Subterranean Press
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.